Burgundy is not just known for its wines. Food is also a major part of the regional culture here.
Infact Burgundy is the 3rd biggest region in France and yet one of the least populated. So what is the region made up of? Crops and Livestock. Yes Burgundy is one of the biggest and heavly subsidized agricultural regions in France and even Europe as a whole, but its products are something special…
Burgundy numbers 22,359 farms and 36,600 farm workers, representing 5.5% of the working population. In addition, the food processing industry employs 10,600 people. In this region with a long farming tradition, AOC wine growing, cereals and cattle breeding represent 75% of its production. The effective farm area is 1.9 million hectares, or roughly 60% of the region’s territory (including 1,014 million hectares of arable land, 800,000 hectares of grazing land and 27,680 hectares of vineyards). In 2006, Burgundy ranked among France’s nine largest farming regions: 2nd for large cattle after Pays de Loire, 3rd for wine-growing, in 6th and 9th place for large-scale crops and cereals (including 316,000 hectares soft wheat, 142,400 hectares of barley and 170,900 hectares of colza).
Vegetable crops – potato, lettuce, cucumber, gherkin (Appoigny), petit pois, beans (coco de Chéru), onion (Auxonne yellow), leek, lentils, carrot, asparagus(Ruffey) – cover roughly 3,500 hectares. Fruit production is devoted to apples, pears, cherries (bigarreau marmotte), prunes (Vitteaux), red fruit and the famous blackcurrant. Cultivated over more than a thousand hectares for a harvest 1,800 tons, the mustard seed is used to make the famous Moutarde de Bourgone (IGP).
Renowned for the quality of its livestock (1.35 million head), Burgundy is strongly identified with the Charolais breed (Label Rouge). This beef breed is one of the treasures of Burgundy’s heritage and has been widely exported around the world. Generously built (145 cm and 1000 to 1400 kg for males, 140 cm and 720 to 900 kg for females), Charolais cattle have a uniformly white or cream hide, with short, curved horns. The meat is a lovely, bright red and stands out because it is tasty, very tender and has a fine, delicate marbling. Charolles beef cattle produce an exceptional meat that owes its future AOC to the typicality of the land (steady, heavy rainfall, dense hydric network, fertile grazing land, etc.) and natural, GMO-free feed.
Burgundy stands out for its very large quality-certified poultry production and 68% of the farmers in the region are wholly committed to all the existing procedures: AOC “Bresse chicken” and “Bresse turkey”, Label Rouge and IGP, CCP, AB. As a result, 64% of the meat chickens are produced under quality labels, compared to the national average of 24%. Bresse chicken (the only AOC chicken) is identified by a ring on the left foot, a red-white-blue seal at the bottom of the neck and an AOC label that specifies its production area. Similar to the colours of our flag, with blue feet, white plumage and meat, red comb and wattles, Bresse chicken is a national ‘symbol’ of quality.
Its reputation with gourmets is still intact thanks to its abundant meat (tender when cooked) and fine bones. Other well-known poultry is produced under quality labels (Label Rouge/IGP) like the Burgundy chicken, Charolais chicken or again the chicken from Plateau de Langres (partly in Côte-d’Or). In addition, for the last twelve years several farms in La Puisaye have been raising a capon with delicate meat, designed for year-end festivities.
Regional milk production totalled 3,576,520 hectolitres in 2006. The quality of the milk is due to the richness of the pastures and grazing land, which makes cheeses full of flavour. Among the most famous, Epoisses is a cheese with a soft, melt-in-the-mouth centre, made from unpasteurized whole cow’s milk. Its rind is brushed with Burgundy marc, giving it a distinctive orange-red colour. Creamy and fruity, it benefits from an AOC and AOP.
Charolais (AOC pending) has a cylindrical shape and is made from unpasteurized goat’s milk, with a cream or blue-tinged rind. Its aroma deepens with age.
Mâconnais (AOC, AOP pending) is a small goat’s cheest, with a pale, slightly salty centre that evolves with ripening.
Chaource (AOC – AOP) is a soft cheese with a smooth, slightly salty centre and mouldy rind, with a cream and mushroom smell.
Soumaintrain (AOC pending) is made from cow’s milk and has a moist, coloured rind (ivory to ochre for the most ripened). It has a soft texture and has a hazelnut, mushroom and underwood taste.
Langres (AOC) is made in different cantons of the Côte-d’Or. This cheese made from whole cow’s milk is soft after ripening, with a pale yellow to reddish brown brushed rind. It has a strong flavour and intense, distinctive smell.
Brillat Savarin (soft cheese with mouldy rind) is a triple cream lactic created by Henri and Pierre Androuët (1930) and named after the famous gastronome. It is found in Burgundy and Normandy.
Other cheeses can be added to this delicious array, like Saint-Florentin (similar to Soumaintrain), the Trappist Cîteaux (like Reblochon), Racotin (goat), Crottin de Chavignol (goat), Aisy cendré (soft cheese with brushed rind, rolled in ashes), Délice de Bourgogne (from cow’s milk, created by Brillat Savarin). …
* Information thanks to the Rungis market website: http://www.rungismarket.com